Whether or not you consider yourself a mobile lawyer, we’re all part of a professional community and society that embraces mobile technology. That means our clients and opposing counsel expect us to be able to access files and research at any time and anywhere — just like they do.
Once I would have called myself “old school” with respect to technology, but my practice and work habits have evolved, by necessity, to suit a mobile world. These days, if I get a call from a client or opposing counsel, it’s simply not acceptable for me to say, “I don’t have the file.” I’ve had to take my practice to a new level. And now, thanks to my smartphone and iPad, I am able to work any time and be much more productive. If I am waiting for a deposition to begin, for my case to be called, or even to pick up my kids’ carpool, I can be drafting a quick memo or returning calls because I can get what I need and I’m prepared.
My Favorite Mobile Apps
You don’t need to be especially “techie.” There are plenty of simple ways to use smartphones and tablets to increase productivity outside the office. Below are the four mobile apps that get me through the day and help me to have ’round-the-clock access to my files, so my clients can have ’round-the-clock access to me.
Dropbox. Dropbox is a document storage app that allows you to access your files any time, anywhere. If you’re in court, attending a deposition or at a client meeting, there are no frantic calls to your assistant to look something up — you have everything you need at your fingertips. Especially if you have multiple meetings in a single day that deal with various cases, this can save you from carrying around a stack of cumbersome Redwelds and unwieldy stacks of notebooks. Aside from looking neater and more professional, Dropbox’s search function allows you to find what you need just by entering any few terms that you know appear in the document. No more flipping pages and rifling through folders to find the document you want.
TrialPad. One of the best things about Trialpad is that it works seamlessly with iTunes, email, WebDAV, Dropbox and other apps to give you access to anything you need for trial while you’re in the courtroom. It’s simple to navigate and you can save all of your annotations and KeyDocs. Plus, you can share your case folder with another TrialPad user! If you have an associate or even a law clerk with whom you work, it’s easy to oversee that person’s work and use it to share files. This is especially nice when you’re out of the office but need to give a quick research assignment.
TranscriptPad. This app lets me review and annotate a transcript quickly, and then share it with staff. Because I run a small law firm, I rely heavily on a few associates to be my right-hands in completing a lot of work. Because I have TranscriptPad on my iPad, I am able to share with them everything they need to complete assignments. And even though I have complete faith in my associates, it gives me a sense of security to be able to check their work as they’re doing it. They have their “own” clients, but the ability to share transcripts allows me to easily ensure that I agree with the direction they’re taking on their cases.
GoToMyPC. Although the aforementioned apps are great for keeping your docs handy on the go, you do have to make sure that you’ve synced the docs with the appropriate apps in order to make them accessible. Applications like GoToMyPC allow you to view your computer remotely from anywhere. This has saved the day for me when I’m working at home and leave a file at the office or forget to upload something I need when meeting with a client off-site.
Know the Risks
Technology is a fabulous asset when used properly, but you can’t just start loading apps without taking necessary precautions. First, if you have any client information on your smartphone or tablet, it is essential that your device is passcode-locked so that, if you lose your device, the information cannot be easily obtained. Also, most mobile devices have a service that allows you to remotely “wipe” the data if the device is misplaced or stolen. You probably have a zillion passcodes you keep track of daily, but especially newer generation devices make it easier — some respond to a fingerprint scan to unlock.
Second, research the specific apps you’re using. You want to know that you are complying with your state’s ethics guidelines, and that the app itself is secure— not one with a hidden agenda that’s tracking your Internet habits.
Especially in law practice, it seems people are hesitant to become “chained” to their devices. Although it is important to be able to turn away from your technology at the end of the day, it makes staying connected to my staff and my clients nearly effortless. Which apps you use is very much tied to personal preference — you might need to try a few and see what best suits your practice and your life. Once you get your system in place, you may find your productivity and efficiency improve in ways you hadn’t thought possible.
Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law. The Oklahoma City-based personal injury firm is focused on making the community safer, and has been very involved in charity work over the last few years. You can connect with him at @NobleMcIntyre, @McIntyreLaw, on Facebook and Google+.